OAKLAND, Calif. – One bit of fallout from the John Ryan Murphy trade to Arizona affects Mitch Garver, the top catching prospect in the Twins organization.
Garver, 26, split time at catcher with Murphy at Class AAA Rochester, with each working 53 games behind the plate. But Garver also played nine games at first base and 14 in the outfield. It was the first time he had ever played professionally in the outfield, as the Twins wanted to keep his bat in the lineup.
While he could get by as an emergency outfielder, Garver’s path to the show is as a catcher. With Murphy now gone and recently acquired Anthony Recker a solid backup not on the Twins’ 40-man roster, Garver is going to be the clear No. 1 catcher at Rochester the rest of the way as he continues to hone his skills.
“He’s going to be catching most of the time back there,” said Brad Steil, Twins director of minor leagues.
In 74 games at Rochester, Garver is batting .272 with 15 home runs and 42 RBI. That includes belting three home runs July 9.
Garver has walked 44 times while striking out 74 times. His .897 on base-plus-slugging percentage is second in the International League. He also has thrown out 30 percent of baserunners attempting to steal.
His play has put him in range of a September call-up, and he could factor for the Twins in 2018.
“The big thing is that we have continued to see him make steady improvement over the last few years,” Steil said.
Garver was selected in the ninth round of the 2013 draft out of the University of New Mexico. Considered a bat-first catcher out of college, Garver has improved his skills behind the plate to make him the catcher of the near future.
Byron Buxton hit the first pitch of the first game of his minor league rehabilitation assignment for a home run on Friday. The center fielder is supposed to play for Rochester at least through the weekend at Toledo before the Twins decide to activate him. They might opt to have him meet them in the Twin Cities in time for Thursday’s game against Texas instead of having him fly cross-country for two games in San Diego.
Buxton initially was placed on the 10-day DL because of a sore left groin muscle and was scheduled to be activated Tuesday, but he was stricken by a migraine in Los Angeles on Monday, and the Twins decided they wanted him to play games to test both issues. Buxton also had an infield hit and drew a walk.
• Righthander Phil Hughes underwent a battery of tests at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester on Tuesday. “Probably understood about 10 percent of the words that were in the reports,” Twins manager Paul Molitor said. Molitor added that a lot of arm-related symptoms have been ruled out and evidence is pointing at thoracic outlet syndrome, which forced Hughes to have surgery last season. Hughes is going to take the tests to Dallas-area vascular specialist Gregory Pearl, who has examined him in the past, to get his opinion.
• Miguel Sano returned to the lineup Friday after recovering from a sore left hand, going 1-for-5 with three strikeouts. He was also robbed of a hit on a diving stop by Oakland third baseman Matt Chapman, who started a 5-4-3 double play. Sano was hit with a pitch on Monday against the Dodgers.
• A group of players, as well as Joe Mauer’s father, Jake, and brother, Bill, spent Thursday’s off day in California golfing at famed Pebble Beach. Most reviews were in words such as “awesome” and “spectacular.”